I was a teen when I learned about Gestalt dream work, and I liked the idea of the self-awareness that it espoused. Being in the present, understanding sensations, emotions, and behaviors was intriguing to a young girl on the verge of becoming a woman and falling in love. I was confused. My body was changing. I really, really liked this boy, and I was scared about all the feelings I was experiencing. I wanted to know what was happening to me, and asking my family wasn't exactly an option. I once suggested that we have family counseling and the silence that met this suggestion made a pin-drop sound deafening.
Luckily, the boy I was yearning for had this book on Gestalt dream therapy, and loaned it to me. Essentially, without getting too technical or deeply ingrained into the whole process, Gestalt dream work is a humanistic technique that emphasizes awareness of behaviors, sensations, and emotions as they pertain to the present rather than the past. It focuses on the present situation rather than talking about what occurred in the past, which is kind of ironic since my area of reference to this is firmly embedded in the past.
I did however read the book. Then I started to do my own unguided dream work. I probably screwed myself up royally, but I learned some valuable lessons that have served me well over the years...I think. One of the great things was that I could do the analysis without an external figure telling me I was wrong in my interpretations. This was quite freeing, since everyone in those days - family, friends, casual acquaintances, and perfect strangers - made sure I knew I was always wrong.
I liked the idea that instead of analyzing dreams, Gestalt therapy worked to integrate them as part of me and not separate from me. I bought into the idea that my dreams were part of a script of my own internal screenplay. I'm not sure how much this helped my psyche, but it's been effective with my writing, as I've said before, and with channeling my imagination. It also gave me many pleasant nights dreaming about that boy - and other men I've known in my life as well.
Okay, so the above might not make much sense to you, so let's take an example of how to implement Gestalt therapy with your dreams. One of the most useful ways I found is to role-play each part of your dream. Say, for instance, your dream consists of three objects inside a room: a rocking chair, a bouncing ball, and a cat walking around. Your job here is to role-play as each object, so you temporarily become the chair, the ball, and the cat, and share with each being - animate or inanimate - what you are feeling, thinking, and sensing at the moment you are relaying the information. Grimalkin, our largest cat, loves to sit in our rocking chair, so the cat in your dream may say to the chair, 'I am bored walking around this room. Perhaps I will sit on you a while!', and the rocking chair may answer, 'You're much too big. You'll fall right off!'
I know, it all sounds corny, but it supposedly gives you insights into your inner emotions and where you are. It didn't work all that well for me, but for others it might.
What I did take away from all this was writing down my dreams, which is another useful trait about Gestalt dream work. I still write down, record, or even tell the cats my dreams, so that I know where my imagination is leading me. This helps me even in my freelance work. I go to sleep at night, contemplating a problem - how to structure a grant or a business plan, what to write in a blog, what direction a story should take - and when I awaken, I've either solved the problem, or I'm inspired to approach something in a totally new way. Sometimes even the cats seem confused at my swift changes in direction and mood.
I don't always have happy, fun-time dreams that solve all life's problems. I have nightmares too - but that's a topic for another time. I do listen to what my dreams are telling me, and I guess I still follow that "Gestaltian" concept of understanding sensations, emotions, and behaviors. However, I like to think that I've evolved and while integrating my dream world, I've created new and exciting roads to follow.
I admit I never got into the deep philosophical, psycho-therapeutic aspects of the whole Gestalt therapy or dream work. I am not that driven in that direction. I didn't buy into the whole:
You are you and I am I,
And if by chance we find each other, it's beautiful.
If not, it can't be helped. - Fitz Perls, 1969
I do feel that we are interconnected and that we are responsible for each other.
Nevertheless, when it comes to my own dreams?
I live there and feel that from these snippets of my personality, from my subconscious, I can achieve my waking dream - to write and share my visions and stories with the world.